October 20, 2000
On February 19, 1945, a young Marine sergeant led his machine gun unit onto the shores of Iwo Jima, where they came under heavy fire from enemy emplacements. The sergeant destroyed them with hand grenades, and he led his unit further ashore, only to be pinned down again by yet another hail of bullets.
Armed only with a pistol, a hand grenade, and a powerful sense of duty and love of country, the courageous sergeant charged forward, battling an awesome onslaught of weaponry, returning only to rearm. Finally, he succeeded in breaking the back of the enemy positions and he rejoined his men so they could, together, press on toward their objective.
His men did just that, and they succeeded. But their leader was not with them. Because the instant he came back to the unit, a single enemy grenade came in...and he was gone.
This heroic Marine sergeant, who began his career as a bugler and sought to serve in combat, was named Darrell Samuel Cole.
The USS Cole was named in his honor. Today we honor the sacrifice of young men and women who share with Sergeant Cole the same powerful sense of duty and love of country, and who join with Sergeant Cole in giving their all, and for some, their lives, so that our nation might be free.
We could find despair in the face of the evil that robbed them of their future. But we must not give hateful souls that satisfaction. We must, instead, renew our determination to press on, to continue the fight against aggression, just as Sergeant Cole's men did on Iwo Jima 55 years ago.
We must press on with our mission in the Persian Gulf, where the USS Cole was headed when this tragedy occurred. We must press on to find all those responsible for this awful act of terror and render justice, swift and sure.
We also join as one to comfort all the sailors of the USS Cole and the family and friends of all who lost their lives, who are missing and who are wounded. We pray to God that their pain may be eased. And we hope that they may take comfort in the knowledge that the personal sacrifice we memorialize on this day forms a bulwark for freedom and democracy that no evil hands can ever tear asunder.